A New Administrative Team & With It -
An Era of Good Feeling
he Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., President of The Catholic University of America, appointed Douglas W. Kmiec as dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law of the university's school of law on July 1, 2001.
One of the nation's leading experts in constitutional law, Dean Kmiec held the Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law since 1999. Before that, he taught constitutional law at the University of Notre Dame for nearly two decades and directed Notre Dame's Center on Law and Government. From 1985 to 1989, Kmiec served in the Reagan and Bush administrations as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice, a position held by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia prior to their appointments to the Supreme Court.
In announcing the appointment, Father O'Connell praised Dean Kmiec's distinguished career in legal education and scholarship as well as in public service. "It is rare to find such a marvelous combination of scholarly productivity and professional legal experience in a single individual," Father O'Connell said. "Professor Kmiec is deeply respected by his peers within the legal community, including those whose perspective may differ from his own. His insights, expertise and government service have earned him an outstanding reputation that will certainly contribute to his success as dean of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. He is uncommonly articulate about how a law school can be both authentically Catholic and of the highest academic quality."
In responding to his nomination, Professor Kmiec wrote to the Search Committee that "the dean's voice in any law school must be one of consistency, encouragement and high professional standard, allowing both students and the larger legal and academic community to see and experience the many-faceted talents of a diverse faculty. At Catholic, we have the special opportunity to combine the gift of faith with the work of reason in a pre-eminently vital location."
Members of the law school faculty uniformly agree that Dean Kmiec has the capacity to take the law school to new heights.
Dean Kmiec is the author of numerous books on the American Constitution and related subjects, as well as book chapters and articles published in leading legal and academic journals. He has provided legal commentary on ABC's Nightline, PBS's Newshour and various National Public Radio programs. His legal analyses have also appeared in The Washington Post, The National Law Journal, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has been the recipient of many awards for scholarship and public service, including a Distinguished Fulbright Fellowship, the Edmund J. Randolph Award, two Distinguished Service Awards from the federal government, and, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the coveted White House Fellowship.
Dean Kmiec recently shared his insights with CUA Lawyer.
CUA Lawyer: What does it mean for you to be both Dean and the law school's new St. Thomas More Professor of Law?
Dean Kmiec: I'm especially committed to keeping the dean in the classroom, so I'm now teaching three sections of a course I've initiated which applies Catholic social teaching to theories of jurisprudence as well as the common law subjects taught in the first year. I'm anticipating to be teaching as many sections next semester and the faculty have voted to make the offering required next year. To know my students in this way is part of the personalism taught by the Holy Father and the Catholic tradition. I wouldn't give it up for all the time in the world.
CUA Lawyer: Tell us about your
Dean Kmiec: I married my high school sweetheart Carolyn Keenan, 28 years ago. Carol is extraordinarily gifted in the fine arts (painting, drawing, graphics) and gave up an enjoyable teaching position in making our move to D.C. For those who know Carol, it is just one of many examples of personal sacrifice (always with good cheer) for others.We have five children: Keenan, Katherine, Kiley, Kolleen and Kloe. Family is very important. It is indeed the first school of virtue and the place where tradition is handed forward with love. Besides the alliterative "K," we gave each of our children the name of an ancestor - a family patron as it were - to sustain continuity with the past. The name, Keenan, for example, which we gave to our firstborn, is my wife's maiden name, and since she was one of nine children, there is an entire clan looking out for his interests. CUA Lawyer: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Dean Kmiec: For exercise, I run two or three miles every morning around 6:00 a.m. before early Mass at Blessed Sacrament. And honestly, beyond my academic life and my family, there is no spare time. My five children are wonderful to watch grow up. Three are still at home. The oldest is now in grad school, and the youngest are 13-year-old twins. Each are gifts in and of themselves, and they are wonderful expressions of their mother and an occasional footnote of me. We tend to do things together as a family whenever possible, and I jealously guard my week-end time in order to have that happen. The family and I go to church, concerts and museums together.
For instance, we recently went to see the Phillips Collection. And we are big fans of the movies; though my children now resist my favorite black and whites and have caught on that Ronald Reagan wasn't really George Gipp. Having lived in Southern California, we are also fond of Mexican food, which is not as easy to find in D.C. - though we have a special place or two.
CUA Lawyer: Could you talk about your vision for the School of Law?
Dean Kmiec: At Catholic University, we have the special opportunity to combine the gift of faith with the work of reason in a pre-eminently vital location: Washington, D.C. The School of Law is a place where faith meets professional calling, a place where we don't have to be embarrassed or bashful about raising the most profound questions of meaning. There are not many law schools like this in the country. Only two well-established law schools - Catholic University and Notre Dame - seem to genuinely wish to maintain the relationship between professional study and an understanding of the faith. I greatly admire Notre Dame's tradition (and secretly envy their Division I football and basketball programs and the revenues and goodwill those sports generate). But while Notre Dame has an NBC contract, we have a Papal charter and a location that is unsurpassed for involving our students in government and public interest work. Our placements in government and public interest are well above the national average for all schools.
CUA Lawyer: What does it mean to teach within the Catholic framework?
Dean Kmiec: Just consider the first year course in contracts. The Catholic emphasis of the study of this course explores not just how contracts are formed or what remedies exist for breach, but also the justice of keeping one's promises and paying a just or family wage, for example. By contrast, most law schools have become entirely utilitarian and consequentialist - believing that ends justify means - and they've cast aside first principles, the most prominent of which is the belief that moral reality can be known and understood by men and women. Although our students are not all Catholic, they all have a sincere desire to explore the relationship of faith and law, and to be of service through the legal profession.
CUA Lawyer: What are some of your goals for the law school in the next five years?
Dean Kmiec: U.S. News & World Report puts Catholic University among the second group of law schools, which is a respectable rank, I suppose, but it is not where we ought to be. None of us can afford to allow our faith to be secondary, and the national university of the universal church can't afford to have its law school judged as being second either. As the university of the Catholic Church in America we must be able to rely on a broader range of committed Catholics, whether alumni or not, to support our efforts. Of course, we expect our alumni to want to be the first to help. In this, we will be going to these generous people of faith who are our alumni and say, "You helped us to build one of the best law school facilities in the nation. Now help us build an endowment to bring our program within the first tier of all U.S. law schools."
By building the scholarship base, we intend to compete with Georgetown, Fordham and Notre Dame for the best law students. We have 1022 students and 41 full-time faculty, plus some deans such as myself who teach. When all are considered, our student teacher ratio is 22:1 or higher. We want to improve that ratio. Our competing schools have ratios of 15:1 or 17:1, so we need to expand our full-time faculty, trim our student numbers, or both. We also need endowed chairs to attract distinguished faculty. For example, Professor Zuckman is leaving the directorship of our very well regarded communications law institute after 20 years, though I am happy to say he will remain a fine teacher on our faculty. In all likelihood, we will need an endowed position to attract a replacement of Professor Zuckman's stature in the legal community to maintain the momentum of that program. In addition, I'm not sure our voice has been heard with clarity over the past decade. To do that, and to raise money, we are obliged to take the School of Law's message nationwide. We have to be prepared to speak on whatever question is vital to the nation's legal interests, including the war on terrorism.
We certainly have the talent to do that on the faculty. Of course, we convey
our message through scholarly
publications, but we must also be prepared to speak via the media, and in other forums, like conferences and before congressional committees.
Right now I'm looking at every aspect of the school to see whether we're doing as well as we can. I'm looking at every committee, our course work, faculty hiring, technology, what books we have in the library. I'm taking nothing for granted. I want to look at everything with the goal of being genuinely excellent within the Catholic tradition.
CUA Lawyer: You're an expert in constitutional law and the position you held in the federal government was held by two men, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist, who are now Supreme Court Justices. Do you ever think about becoming a Supreme Court justice someday?
Dean Kmiec: What constitutional lawyer could say no to that? But I have no illusions. Being Catholic can be a liability for such things, but "blessed are the persecuted," right? Richard Rich, who perjured himself to gain the Attorney Generalship of Wales, was reminded by Thomas More that it profits a man nothing to sacrifice his faith for position. So, I certainly do not intend to do so. In any event, there is nothing in constitutional text or history that precludes such service should, by some remote chance, it come about. In comparison to St. Thomas, who sacrificed family, position, and life, itself, to maintain his integrity, forsaking a hope of court nomination is quite little.
CUA Lawyer: What past experiences have helped you the most in doing your work as a dean?
Dean Kmiec: The standard answer is that I've had administrative responsibilities in universities and in the federal government, heading the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. In the latter position, I effectively was constitutional legal officer for the President and general counsel for the executive branch of the government. That opportunity was helpful in preparing me to manage the law school. I've also spent 25 years in academia, and I've been fortunate enough to be taught by people who really love God and their neighbor through their teaching and administrative work - like Father Ted Hesburgh, the long-time president of Notre Dame. There are more people than I can name, but I think also of my fellow Notre Dame colleague, and now dean, Patricia O'Hara, who is a model of prudence and sound judgment, law professor Charles Rice, a leader of the pro-life movement, and Edward Murphy, who before his untimely death, was a master teacher and illustrated that to teach well we need to build and practice habits of virtue. A truly great friend (and the Godfather to my daughter Kolleen), Notre Dame law professor Tex Dutile, is a former CUA law professor, who now oversees the Notre Dame athletic program. Tex taught me that if you had to make a choice between being smart or friendly; it's better to be friendly. He's both.
CUA Lawyer: What do you think the law school's greatest asset is, and what do you think is its greatest challenge?
Dean Kmiec: Our greatest asset is clearly faith, and the commitment to understanding its implications for the legal profession. The second greatest asset is people of faith from all our communities: our students, faculty and alumni, as well as the people who never studied at Catholic University but who believe that maintaining the national university of the Catholic Church is vitally important. As for the school's greatest challenge, sometimes we think we're better known than we are. We're so consumed by day-to-day responsibilities that we think we don't have time to be evangelists for the university. But we must be. We never know which e-mail, lecture, media appearance or private correspondence will propel our good fortune. If we're alert to opportunities, great things can happen, but we can't assume such opportunities will happen on their own. Some professors might say, 'We're busy with teaching and conferences and seminars and research from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and now you're asking us to be evangelists on top of everything?' But taking up that burden is part of making dreams happen.
CUA Lawyer: Do you miss California?
Dean Kmiec: Frankly, yes. Malibu is a beautiful spot and it had become home. More than that, the ecumenical experience of teaching among administrators and faculty who became truly good friends and at a religiously affiliated university not of our faith (Pepperdine) was a genuine period of intellectual growth for me. But I feel a special calling to be at CUA Law right now and except when it snows; I have no second thoughts.
CUA Lawyer: What are the best and worst parts of your job as dean?
Dean Kmiec: There are so many good parts. What's best? I think it would be the number of people here who share the mission deeply. Our faculty constantly reaffirm why we exist and they model a belief in the transcendent dignity of the human person. What they bring to instruction is absolutely wonderful. I see it in the eyes of students in chapel, and in the school's legal clinics where elderly home-bound people and abused spouses get their confidence and lives restored by 24-year-old student-lawyers. It's great to witness. It's great being in the company with professionals who share the mission in as robust a way as I do. The worst thing about the job is that there are not more hours in the day. I've always told students that they must keep work and family in balance, and now frequently end my workday at 10 or 11 p.m. or later. Fortuitously, my children share their father's enthusiasm for CUA. Who wouldn't?